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Carpe Nocte(m); seize the night

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Offline eversearching

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for asterin;
The Courts of Spring and Summer were growing restless. He felt it in the ragged breathing of the Hedge when he travelled between Arcadia and the mortal world. Faerie, that great and endless beast, grew hungry. Elvstana's tender hands around his heart told him as much. The queen's command, poured forth from apple-red lips overtop the warm pulsations of his precious organ, was thus:

"Huntsman of Summer,
The brightest star of warmest evenings,
Bring me a tender youth,
And let her breath be as sweet
As sun-ripened fruit.
"

Amroth needed little telling as to when he ought to hurry his bones.

He professed a smile and pressed a kiss to her smooth knuckles. "For there we loved, and where we love is home," he said, and his breath whistled through his teeth, whistled like the dense reeds of Faerie's most forgotten swamps. "Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. Though o'er us shine the jasper-lighted dome: The chain may lengthen, but it never parts!"

Elvstana's soft laughter chased at his heels when he left. Chased him through the Hedge, nipped at his coat-tails, and parted from him only when he stepped through a Hedge-Gate.

The sky cracked open with a lightning flash and boiled the water in a puddle to steam as the man with a leather jacket full of stars landed light on his feet atop a building.

Amroth stood tall, brushing imaginary dust from his shoulders. A moment's respite. A chance to look for the day's catch.

He borrowed souls from humanity's crevices, those who went discarded, like so many pieces of trash littering city streets. Humans were a disgusting brood if one cared to consider their habits. They were forever shitting where they ate and deigning to complain about it. Stop ocean pollution! Don't cut down our rainforests! And there he was, doing them a bloody favour, taking them away from their filthy, depraved surroundings and raising them to a brighter, more expansive existence. He could not begin to comprehend how some of them even considered the act of escape, much less when they succeeded at the task. Blessedly, the numbers were few and far between. Blessedly, he had only one such runaway to account for. Blessedly, Elvstana had not noticed - or perhaps she did not care.

His smartwatch vibrated and Amroth looked down to see a message from Nim flashing on the screen.

18:22
you out tonight?

He ran a hand through his hair, tugging at the ends, debating if he should reply. Engaging his sister often proved more headache than help. Sighing, he gave in.

18:24
Yeah.

18:25
saw an old pet in the hedge. cutie patootie. got her toothie.

Amroth stared at his screen a moment. A phantom pounding in his chest, a twist of the gut so akin to a knife. He could procure a new creature and rectify his mistake, all in one night. It felt too good, and he wanted it too much...which meant his sister would leave him barren, would raze the fields of his hopes, flood them with fetid waters.

18:26
Do you speak of the Changeling runaway? Did you catch her?
Nim, answer me. I demand to know. I have been searching.

18:27
lol fuck u and good fukn luck with elvstana.
ur not in any position to make demands. u want help? help urself buddy. i wipe my own ass nobody else's

He swallowed the shriek welling in his gut. How dare she? He thought they were past these childish antics. Here he was, believing his sister had grown to some semblance of maturity! Not so!

"Sir?"

Amroth frowned and peered over the rooftop's edge. Below him stood a gangly youth, face full of pockmarks, wearing a red button-down shirt with a black apron overtop.

The kid wrung his hands together as he called out again. "Sir, this is a Wendy's. Can you please get down?"

Ah. "So it is," Amroth said.

Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Amroth stepped over the side of the roof, the sound of his feet muffled by the fry cook's gasp. Amroth did not care to look back as he set off down the street.

The evening stretched out before him, crawling ever closer to nighttime.

Amroth circled this part of town for the fifth time, searching. Searching for nothing, from the look of it. He could not tell what drew him here, preventing a switch in focus. Three more rounds, another hour - a concept irrelevant in Faerie.

Amroth would have forced himself to move on had he not seen her. He had taken a side street, and it spat him out into a secluded courtyard, empty safe for a young woman and a tree. The tree dominated the space, its gnarled branches reaching for the sky as they were dragged down earthwards by thousands of papers interspersed between its leaves.

The woman stood on the other side of the tree, tender spring leaves and folded paper wishes framing her face.

She was slight and red-haired, with a tightness between her shoulders and a brittleness to her bones. The thrum of blood through her arteries bordered on the erratic - or could he have been distracted by the nighttime sounds of the banal human city surrounding them? No matter. She was here, and she was perfect. Rising with her red hair.

His feet brought him over beside her, and he supposed she might have heard his approach had she been listening close enough. His feet were slow, his shoulders relaxed, keeping a polite distance so as not to spook her. It did not do well to trip the prey's instinctive urge to flee. Best it does not recognize it was a Huntsman softly breathing the same stale air.

Something in the look of her had his guts churning, slithering across one another akin to a bucket of eels. Inside him, those eels ached; they snapped at one another and at the rest of him. They forced an acrid taste to rise to the back of his throat. Lady Lazarus, indeed.

"Out of the ash, you rise with your red hair. And yet, you are unhappy. What afflicts you?" he said, coming to a stop within some six feet of her.



The fear of Summer's former slaveling sat pretty on the back of Nim's tongue. They met only hours before in the dense thicket of the Hedge; the woman was tucked into an alcove of twilit foliage from whence it was nigh impossible to leave.

Before Nim could decide, the woman had had the gall, the gumption, the absolute baffling naivety, to have turned and drawn a thin iron spike from out her tattered pocket. "Safe passage," she demanded, spoken in a warbling, crackling voice - and Nim saw the coals burning in that frail, milky throat.

For a tooth, Nim let her pass.

So, it was with a spring in her step and an extra rattle in her leather pouch that Nim set off down the streets towards number 54, Brisebois Avenue. A generosity sang through her, prompting her to pull out a human device and text her brother. Not even his ungrateful replies could sink her spirits. The stink of the city, the subtle and less-subtle screech of iron, the over-worked stoop-shouldered humans who were more husk than organism - by Arcadia's milky tits, it all buttered Nim's bread.

After all, she had a dinner date to make. A fawning fan requesting her presence for an intimate get-together comprising him, herself, and a vetted half-dozen other ass-kissers? She could not refuse, doubly so as Finvar called on her to Hunt.

Brisebois Avenue was tucked out of the way of the city's proper, tucked up in a sleep suburban neighbourhood. Not her preferred locale, but it would do. She knocked thrice on number 54's heavy door, taking care to avoid the intricate iron designs - cheeky humans. On the other side came a rustling, a shuffling, an eager stomping as the host hurried to allow her inside.

The door swung open too fast, and on the other side stood Bart Saunders in all his bristly-jowled glory. "Miss Abrams! Welcome, welcome!" He stepped to the side and performed something of a half-bow, his arm fanning out in an arc to gesture her into his home.

Stepping over the threshold, she was met with the comforting, oppressive stench of humans. Before her, a stuffy entryway stretched into an equally stuffy dining room with a table set for eight people. She could peek at some of their faces from the entryway as she slipped into a pair of guest slippers. Hungry, they were all hungry. Hungry for the promise of escape from their dullard's reality. Humanity's finest Faerie-fanciers, all here to eat of her as much as they would eat of their dinner.

The thought sent wave upon wave of paresthesia down her limbs to think her quarry was hooked by her words rather than any physical snare.

She followed Bart into the dining room.

"Everyone, this is Wilhelmina Nymeria Abrams, author of The Equinox Road: A Journey into Faerie. Our very own Dread Persephone, if you will." He chuckled and dabbed at his forehead with a damp handkerchief.

For the span of a heart's filling, for that sigh of ventricular diastole, she had too many teeth. Too sharp. "Call me Nim. It's easier on the tongue."

"Ah, Nim. Please, make yourself at home. Mi casa es su casa, and all that." Bart was all smiles. Big, lopsided, teeth off-white smiles.

"Bart, if I didn't know better, I would say I'm making you nervous."

"And who wouldn't be in the presence of their favourite author?" He grabbed a bottle and a wine glass off the liquor cabinet. Beads of perspiration were forming on his scalp.

She yearned to lick them off, to take his skin along with them. Slurp, slurp, with a tongue as sandpapery as a mean kitty's.

The other guests looked her way, some tense, others attempting to give an air of calm, casual interest. Bart rattled off their names as he poured, Tanjeet, Christa, Vince, Mohammed, Dawn, Bradley.

Nim accepted the glass of red offered her at the introduction's end. "How auspicious to make your acquaintance. Did you all hear what Bart said to me before? Mi casa es su casa. One day his hospitality will prove his end."

Polite snickers filled the room. Bart said something she ignored.

She could be the end of his hospitality. A frisson of pleasure crept up her spine and to the tippy-top of her dark-haired head. How thrilling to mingle with such malleable things. Why, she could press a finger to that one's middle and it would give way and come out the other end without much fuss. She could stick her entire hand up beneath those tender ribs and pluck out a heart and shove it deep in her empty chest. True satisfaction came in abstaining.

A perversion. That's what Amroth would have called it. Brother dearest refused to see how similar their approaches were. The ends were the same, regardless of the means.

Nim looked to a curly-haired man standing a ways off on her left. "Bradley, was it? What draws you to Faerie?"